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At Austin Adoption Day, there’s no place like home

Annual event celebrates Austin’s new ‘forever families.’

The yellow-brick road stretched through Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center, but at the end, no wizard was waiting.

Instead, those who attended Thursday’s “Wizard of Oz”-themed Austin Adoption Day discovered a judge ready to give them a new title: “forever family.”

At 10:15 a.m. in Courtroom C, Brooke and Kevin Goodlett and sons, Sean, 12, and Nick, 8, waited patiently as Judge Jeff Rose solicited input from the players in their case, including Child Protective Services, CASA and Helping Hand Home, their foster care agency of more than two years.

“These boys have been through a whole lot,” CASA advocate Ryan Broussard, dressed as a scarecrow in honor of the occasion, told the judge. “Finding this placement has been a miracle.”

The Goodletts first met Sean and Nick about a year and a half ago when they agreed to provide respite care while their foster parents took time off. The boys seemed withdrawn.

The boys’ impression of the Goodletts? “Old people who work a lot,” Sean admits.

In July, the Goodletts asked the boys, who had already attended eight elementary schools and lived in three previous foster homes, to move in permanently.

Thanks to some long hikes and intense games of backyard soccer, Sean’s and Nick’s idea of the Goodletts started to change — in Sean’s eyes they became “active” and “young.” Soon after, they became only “Mom” and “Dad.”

The boys also bonded with two other family members — Scottish terriers Basil and Bonnie.

“They feed them now, and Bonnie will cry if Sean leaves the house,” Brooke Goodlett said. “They love the boys, the boys love them.”

Inside the courtroom filled with stuffed animals — each child took one home — Rose turned his attention to the Goodletts.

”From the testimony given today and from reviewing the record the court finds that the adoption is in the best interest of Sean and Nick,” he said. “Congratulations. You all are going to be a permanent and forever family. I’m really proud to be a part of it.”

The room exploded with applause, an exclamation point at the end of a case that sometimes felt like an endless string of ellipses. Instead of clicking ruby slippers, Sean pounded Rose’s gavel. The Goodletts beamed at their sons, but also offered a reminder of how many potential sons and daughters still need homes.

“This is two boys out of the hundreds in just Travis County,” Brooke Goodlett said. “There’s kids sleeping in offices. There’s a huge, huge need for foster parents.”

Then, the newly minted “forever family” headed back down that same yellow-brick road for home. On this day especially, there was no place like it.

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